Future of Music


Does music need a person to write it? Or can a computer make music? Liz Waid and Nick Page answer these questions.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Nick Page. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Through history composers have created many beautiful pieces of music like this. In fact, many composers have become famous for their ability to create music. But, does music even need a composer? Or can music begin in a completely different way? Does music need a person to write it? Or can a computer make music?

Voice 2 

These are some of the questions two researchers wanted to answer. These researchers are Armand Leroi and Doctor Bob MacCallum. Both teach at Imperial College London. Both are interested in how the natural world changes, or evolves.

Voice 1 

When something evolves, it changes and improves itself. Often, these changes happen over a long period of time. The changes pass from one generation to the next - from parent to a child, to that child’s child, and so on.

Voice 2 

But Leroi and MacCallum believe that many parts of human culture also evolve. This includes changes in language, art, and music. Leroi told the BBC:

Voice 3 

“People do not often think that music evolves. But everybody knows music has a history and it has traditions. But if you think about it, it really has evolved. It continues to change.”

Voice 1 

So Leroi and MacCallum built a system to test their idea. Their system is a computer called DarwinTunes. DarwinTunes is named after the famous scientist Charles Darwin. He is most famous for his theory of evolution called natural selection. A simple way to describe Darwin’s Theory of natural selection is: “the strongest survive”. Strong living things will continue to survive. But weaker living things will disappear. Using these ideas, Leroi and MacCallum built DarwinTunes.

Voice 2 

In the beginning, the computer created two short loops, or pieces, of sound. The loops were eight seconds long. The sounds were completely random. That is, each note or place of the note was by chance. Doctor MacCallum described the process to the BBC.

Voice 4 

“The notes are in any place, in any order. And the kind of sound - the instrument - is also completely random.”

Voice 1 

Here is what these first kinds of loops sounded like:

After these loops were created, they had babies! DarwinTunes mated the two loops. The program used a complex method to combine and mix the loops. The program took some parts from each loop. Then it used these parts to create four completely new loops. Each new loop contained some parts of each original loop.

Voice 2 

But there is another thing that also happens in nature – mutations. This is a random change in the genes of the child. So, the child may develop a gene that is not present in either parent. DarwinTunes also copied this process from Darwin’s Theory. Sometimes the program added a small mutation to the next generation of loops.

Voice 1 

The next step was for the four new loops to mate. That process created 16 new loops. DarwinTunes continued mating loops until it had produced 100 different loops.

Voice 2 

Now it was time to start natural selection. Leroi and MacCallum invited people to rate the loops. These volunteers could visit the DarwinTunes website. There, a volunteer listened to 20 loops. Each volunteer rated each loop on how much he liked it or did not like it. About 7,000 volunteers took part in rating the loops of music.

Voice 1 

DarwinTunes used the loops people liked the most. They mated these loops to make more loops. The new loops replaced their parent loops and the loops people did not like. Doctor MacCallum described this process to the BBC:

Voice 4 

“In the beginning, the loops were horrible. But sometimes, one was a little less horrible than the others. So, the volunteer would give that loop a higher rating. Then that loop and a few others that were also not quite as horrible would go forward. They would produce new loops. And then, as evolution continues, the music does get better.”

Voice 2 

DarwinTunes repeated this process again and again. Every new set of loops was a new generation. After a few hundred generations, the very bad sounding loops disappeared. The loops began to sound better and better. Here is what the loops sounded like at 150 generations:

Voice 1 

Now here is what the loops sounded like at 1,700 generations.

Voice 2 

But the researchers discovered that the loops really started to sound like REAL music after about 2,500 generations.

Voice 1 

And at about 3,000 generations, something very interesting and amazing happened! Doctor MacCallum told the BBC:

Voice 4 

“After about 3,000 generations, there starts to be a kick drum or a bass drum. That just came out of nowhere. We did not put any drum sounds into the computer program.”

Voice 2 

The DarwinTunes project is not finished. Today it has produced more than 3,600 generations. The experiment HAS answered one of Leroi and MacCallum’s questions. DarwinTunes WAS able to create music without a composer. But the question now is – can a computer make very GOOD music? Leroi offered his opinion to the BBC.

Voice 3 

“I have no doubt. If we continued this experiment for longer we could evolve wonderful music. But we would need bigger, faster computers, and millions of people instead of thousands. And we would need to continue the experiment for years instead of months. Would it be music as good as the composer Mozart’s? No, I do not think so. It would have no composer writing it. It would not be the act of any person with great musical ability. Instead, it would be the people’s music in its purest form.”

Voice 1 

What do you think? Can a computer ever replace the creative abilities of people? What do you think of the loops from DarwinTunes? The samples of DarwinTunes music in this program came from the DarwinTunes website. You can find a link to the DarwinTunes website on the script page of this program. There, you can also hear more samples of DarwinTunes loops, and even take part in rating new loops.

Voice 2 

The writer and producer of this program was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘The Future of Music?’

Voice 1

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

Do you think a computer can write music that is special? Or is that only something people can do?

Comments


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vivianhuang
said on August 22, 2013

Of course,it is impossible that the computer can replace the creative abilities of people.People can think while computer not.Computer depends on people how to do.People made the computer.No people no computer.Hahahahahahahahaha…

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jack shin
said on August 22, 2013

Yes, i guess even if those loops had taken many years, those wouldn’t have been art as mozart’s or any greatest artists or composers. But i’d be one of the happiest one when i’d be able to see its absolutes.

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georgino
said on August 23, 2013

It´s necessary the composers and create the beuty music
The computers works after .....first the people feel   and put the musical notes.

I love a   good sound, a good song.

grtngs

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paulo86nirisco
said on August 27, 2013

I still prefer Mozart

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Dela
said on September 01, 2013

I love and listen to each good music even classical one too. I think music the computers would create never could be so close to a human’s heart and soul. In spite of it looking for a new way to create music may be successful some day.
Thanks for interesting topic!

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vien
said on September 23, 2014

sorry, why don’t I listen to radio ?

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vien
said on September 24, 2014

in my opinion , that’s wonderful when create music without composers. But that music will not have lyrics, maybe it could be piano,or anything else. You just listen piano when you want to relax, or be stressed ,
I think if there is a composer will be better, so you can listen lyrics of songs and will sing or yell if you want and maybe you will feel better than

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Mss Flamboyant
said on September 25, 2014

Nowadays technology play an important role in our life, computers and roboots can do many things which human can not complete. But in some fields people also play the main role. I really prefer classical music to electronic mucsic or computer music. Because its sound is easy to listen and imagine. Thus, In my opinion composers are always important in our spiritual life.

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Wendy Arcos
said on May 24, 2015

Well, in this society most of things were replaced with machines instead of humans, I know that it helps a lot, but a little not too much. Machines can make a perfect job, but humans can feel and that machines not. People are designed to feel a lot of emotions, be creative, to think well and so on and that machines are programmed to do only what it have to do nothing more.

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Honneur
said on August 13, 2018

The simple definition of “music” already invalidates the possibility of a computer “creating” music.
Music is the art of combining sounds harmoniously and melodiously. Harmony is the combination of simultaneous sounds and melody is the combination of successive sounds, but this is not the most important.
The computer executes orders that a program, made by a man, determines to it. Thus, the results are not obtained by the computer, but by the intelligence of the man who wrote the program.
The computer is like a hammer or a pliers. Just a tool we use to achieve certain results.

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bamfg
said on July 10, 2019

As they said, an AI can compose a musical tone. It requires lots of work and people aid. I hope it will work. It is a way of improving AI . Thank you. Keep up the great work. God bless you